Substance Use

Is Alcohol a Drug? Find Out What Type of Drug It Is & More

assortment of alcohol drinks

How is Alcohol Classified?

Alcohol is classified as a drug and has many effects on the body, both short-term and long-term. In general, alcohol acts as a depressant, meaning it slows down certain functions in the brain and body.

Alcohol is a widely consumed substance, yet many people don’t consider it a drug. Find out what type of drug it is and more with this comprehensive guide to understanding alcohol and its effects on your health.

Zinnia Healing is an excellent option for those seeking help with a substance use disorder. We provide inpatient rehab services and outpatient support, covering every step of the recovery journey. If you or someone you love needs assistance, call our 24/7 alcohol addiction hotline at (855) 430-9439.

Is Alcohol a Drug?

Yes, alcohol is a drug. It has an impact on the body in similar ways as other drugs, altering brain chemistry and influencing emotions and decisions. Drinking alcohol disrupts neurological activity, modifies emotions, impedes discernment, and can generate dependence if misused.

Is Alcohol a Controlled Substance?

Alcohol is considered a drug, but it is not classified as a controlled substance. Alcohol is an intoxicating beverage that has been around for centuries and is used worldwide.

It is made from fermented grains, fruits, or vegetables and contains ethanol (ethyl alcohol).

1. What Is a Controlled Substance?

According to the National Cancer Institute, government control over certain drugs and substances is necessary to prevent drug abuse, addiction, and illegal possession.

For example, medications such as morphine or Valium require a prescription from a doctor due to their potential for misuse. Other controlled substances like heroin are illegal in the United States since they have no known medical use.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, examples of controlled substances include:

  • Stimulants like cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)
  • LSD (acid)
  • PCP (angel dust)
  • Prescription opioids such as OxyContin®, Vicodin®, Percocet® Benzodiazepines such as Valium®, Xanax®
  • Barbiturates such as Seconal
  • Hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms
  • Inhalants like nitrous oxide (laughing gas)

These drugs are illegal to possess without a valid prescription from a doctor.

2. Why Isn’t Alcohol Classified as a Controlled Substance?

Alcohol is widely used and readily available, which would make it difficult to classify it as a controlled substance. Prohibition was unsuccessful in banning alcohol in the United States. Therefore, governments generally regulate its production and sale instead of prohibiting it.

What Type of Drug Is Alcohol, and What Does That Mean for Your Body?

Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that inhibits activity in the central nervous system (CNS), leading to a range of effects from slurred speech and impaired coordination to slower reaction times.

When someone is binge drinking, they may experience nausea or vomiting due to their body’s inability to metabolize the alcohol as quickly as it is consumed. These symptoms can result in dehydration if not addressed promptly.

Other short-term side effects of heavy drinking include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Reduced motor control
  • Confusion
  • Impaired vision, hearing, and reaction time
  • Alcohol overdose

Are you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse? At Zinnia Healing, we understand the challenges of addiction and offer personalized support. Our inpatient rehab gives clients 24/7 care from experienced medical and mental health professionals. After completing the program, various outpatient treatment options are available to extend and maintain sobriety. Give us a call anytime at (855) 430-9439.

What Are the Effects of Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse has been linked to an increase in anxiety and depression as well as a decrease in cognitive abilities such as judgment and decision-making.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 32 Americans lose their lives every day due to car accidents caused by drunk driving.

1. Alcohol’s Effect on Your Body

Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to physical dependence, meaning someone needs alcohol to function normally.

According to a report published in the National Library of Medicine, withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Shaking hands
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate

Long-term alcohol use can also increase the likelihood of critical medical issues such as:

  • Liver disease
  • Memory loss
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart disease)
  • Cerebrovascular disorder (stroke)
  • Cancers in the mouth/throat/liver
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hypertension
  • High blood pressure

2. Alcohol’s Effect on Your Brain

When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it is dispersed throughout the body, including to the brain, where its action on specific neurotransmitters can alter emotions and actions.

Alcohol binds with these receptors in a way that causes an increase in dopamine levels, leading to feelings of pleasure or euphoria.

The euphoria produced by alcohol’s action on the brain is what gives some people enjoyment, despite potential drawbacks like hangovers or brain damage that may arise from long-term use.

Alcohol also has sedative effects, making someone feel relaxed or sleepy after consuming large amounts.

3. Alcohol’s Psychological Effects

Heavy drinking can also cause psychological problems such as anxiety disorders or suicidal thoughts because it impairs decision-making abilities and increases impulsivity, leading people into dangerous situations they would not normally take part in while sober.

4. The Social Consequences of Excessive Drinking

Heavy drinking can also have severe social consequences, such as:

  • The loss of friends due to inappropriate behavior while intoxicated
  • Family and interpersonal conflict
  • Violent behavior or criminal activities

5. The Financial Consequences of Excessive Drinking

The financial consequences of excessive drinking can be severe, as someone may find themselves having to pay hefty fines for DUI or DWI offenses or medical bills due to health issues caused by chronic alcohol use.

Excessive drinking can lead to job loss due to missed workdays and poor performance in the workplace.

How Much Alcohol Is Safe To Consume?

Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that men limit their alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day. For women, the recommended amount is no more than one drink a day.

Women should be extra cautious when it comes to drinking as they tend to have a lower tolerance level and may experience more of the adverse effects of alcohol than men.

How Can You Seek Help for Alcohol Addiction?

Seeking help for alcohol addiction can be daunting. However, it is a courageous first step toward regaining control.

Many resources are available to those struggling with alcohol addiction, such as rehabilitation centers and 12-step programs.

Other helpful options include one-on-one counseling, either with a therapist or an addiction specialist, to discuss any underlying issues that might have led to the dependence in the first place.

Speaking openly about addiction with family and friends can also be beneficial because embracing the support of other people is critical.

Medications may also form part of a treatment plan to assist with detoxification and keeping cravings at bay during recovery. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are the top three medications used to combat alcohol use disorder.

At Zinnia Healing, we understand how much of a challenge and commitment tackling an alcohol addiction can be. That’s why our experienced team has developed in-depth addiction treatment programs for those dealing with alcohol use disorder. We use evidence-based approaches to reduce the risk of relapses. Call our 24/7 hotline to speak to a team member at (855) 430-9439.

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